There is so much talk about eco friendly and green products. Even with the best of intentions, they can be challenging to buy, as there are many factors to consider, and all products are not labeled the same way, making them hard to compare attributes. You may also hear different words used to describe them like organic or sustainable, however all these terms don’t always mean the same thing.
Let’s look at the various options for greening your home and office with fabrics, as well as the many considerations.
When a product is labeled eco, green, sustainable, or recycled it may mean that all or only some of it contains those properties. Here are some of the ways in which a product can be eco friendly:
- Created from recycled or renewable materials
- Sourced or manufactured locally
- Uses less electricity or materials to manufacture or operate
- Manufactured without the use of chemicals or toxins
Eco Textile Options
When it comes to furniture and accessories, there currently are a lot of options in eco friendly fabrics from organic cottons, linens, hemps and recycled polyesters and microfibers.
The origin of the fiber, surprisingly, doesn’t tell the whole story when it comes to how environmentally friendly it is. Here are a few types of fabrics and their attributes:
Natural Fibers – these include Cotton, Linen, Hemp, Bamboo, Silk and Wool.
Cotton, for example, is a natural plant fiber which comes in different weights from lightweight for curtains and linens to heavier weight upholstery fabric. Surprisingly, cotton uses a lot of pesticides and a huge amount of water to process it and turn it into a fabric. With water becoming a more precious resource this can be considered an environmental concern. Organic cotton is grown without the pesticides, but requires just as much water.
Regenerated Natural Fibers – these include Rayon and Bamboo
Cellulose from the pulp of the wood is a very tough fiber; when softened by chemicals it can be turned into a very soft and attractive fabric.
Regenerated fibers are not considered environmentally friendly, even with the advancements that have been made over time as they use a range of polluting chemicals and heavy metals. There is one company manufacturing under the brand Tencel® that uses an extremely environmentally friendly process.
Synthetic Fabrics – these include polyester, microfibers and ultra-suede
Fabrics like polyester, microfibers [a finer strand polyester] and ultra suedes are fabrics made from a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. While the origin and processing of these fabrics may not be very environmentally friendly, there are many fabrics made from reclaimed and recycled polyesters in what is called a close loop cycle that helps the environment by keeping them from landfills.
Other environmental considerations of are whether chemicals and finishes are used on them in manufacturing, and if so, how toxic or environmentally friendly they are. Some textiles have an organic or eco label certifying them. This can be helpful in evaluating a fabric for your home or office, however the lack of a certification doesn’t mean ruling out a fabric; the certification process can be lengthy and expensive. Then again, a fabric may not be eligible for labeling if it doesn’t meet environmental standards
Fabric Choice Pros and Cons
While natural fabrics are appealing from both an environmental perspective, but also because they often have an appealing look and texture, they also have drawbacks as compared with some of the eco friendly options like polyester.
Fading – natural fabrics often fade from exposure to sunlight over time. Their synthetic counterparts are often color fast for their lifetime.
Stain Resistance – natural fabrics may stain easily, but also releases soil when properly cleaned. Most synthetic fabrics can be stain resistant.
Durability – Natural fabrics may stretch out over time, whereas synthetic ones have more stable and consistent fibers that hold their shape as well as having a higher wearability factor over time.
When it comes to decorating and fabrics, I recommend weighing your options and considering the look and feel of a fabric, its eco factors as well as your lifestyle before making any decision.
If you have children and pets in your home, synthetics may be a better option to preserve your investment in your furniture and design choices. Imagine your children or grand children jumping on your lovely sofa or chairs. With natural fabric upholstery this may result in sagging and discoloration over time, and should be a contributing factor in your design decisions. While you may prefer natural fabrics, in this example, going with a synthetic fabric, while not your ideal aesthetic is a small price to pay to keep your home looking good for as long as you want to enjoy the décor and your investment.
It can be confusing to try and decipher how green a product is, or to compare two different products against each other. A trained interior designer, such as myself can help you make selections that fit with your environmental concerns, design aesthetic and budget. Please feel free to reach out to me with any of your concerns.
ENJOY THE REST OF YOUR SUMMER – AND I’LL SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER!